North Fork Bancorp was still waiting late last week for Hudson United Bancorp to say whether it would release its star-crossed suitor, Dime Bancorp, from a promise not to conduct merger talks with other companies.

Meanwhile, a Delaware Chancery Court judge on Friday denied North Fork's request to speed up the progress of a lawsuit that North Fork filed last month asking the court to invalidate the "no-talk" agreement between Dime and Hudson United.

The ruling came in the same week that Dime won a related legal battle with a court ruling that bars Citigroup Inc.'s Salomon Smith Barney unit from acting as North Fork's adviser at least through May 12.

Dime's legal team cheered the ruling as a major victory in its effort to preserve its friendly deal with Mahwah, N.J.-based Hudson United and asserted that North Fork would have a much harder time succeeding in its unsolicited bid without a key adviser.

"It was a knockout punch," said Hyman Schaffer, an attorney for Dime.

Melville, N.Y.-based North Fork is nonetheless pursuing its $1.9 billion takeover of Dime, going so far as to offer to raise its bid last month.

One of North Fork's hurdles has been a pact between Dime and Hudson that they would not talk with outside parties about other deals until their merger agreement expires at the end of June.

John Adam Kanas, chief executive officer of North Fork, said he talked briefly late last month with Hudson's chairman, Kenneth Neilson, and sent him a letter asking that the no-talk agreement be lifted. "We continue to await an answer," Mr. Kanas said.

Mr. Neilson did not return a phone call. A Dime spokesman had no comment.

Dime and Hudson United shareholders are scheduled to vote May 17 on their proposed merger.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.